Cape Town, My Cape Town

I’ve been in Cape Town now since Monday. As the plane landed I got my first glimpses of Table Mountain, I felt simultaneously so at home but also so far away from Leif. I was at the bottom of Africa. So much has changed since I last set foot in South Africa. I’ve gone through a pregnancy and become a mama. We’ve bought a house and began putting roots down for the first time in our marriage. Yes, life is much different than it was 3.5 years ago but something remain the same. Table Mountain still stands watch over the beautiful city of Cape Town. My heart still flutters to life at the thought of running its trails or even just the roads at its base.

11755762_10105300697212191_3214751473326671806_nAfter 30 hours of travel, and a long time standing in line to get through immigration–in which I couldn’t connect to the wifi to let Samiya know about said line– I was so so happy to hear her call my name in the airport! Its funny, 3.5 years have passed since we have last seen each other in person and it might as well have been yesterday. She’s that kind of friend.

After a quick stop at Woolworths to make sure I had vegetables, we strapped on our runners and went for a brisk walk in the South African wintery sun… We talked of marriage (which she is embarking on this week) and babies and family and giggled like school girls. Life continues to change and we continue to age but in my heart, we are still the 25 year olds we were when we met. I think we always will be.

After an incredible sleep last night, I woke up and ran this morning. My goal—Rhodes Memorial and back. I’m not that familiar with Samiya’s families’ neighborhood so she drew me a map to get to my old turf. Of course, I got lost and just wove my way toward the mountain, under the train tracks, and finally to roads I recognized. I could run those roads in my sleep. By the time I got to the base of the road to Rhodes, I was already 5 miles out (longer than we had estimated) but thought, “well, I’ve come this far, I’m going to run to the top of this”. The hill is steep but so ridiculously peaceful and comforting to me. As my lungs burned and my healing hamstring tugged at me, I smiled. I couldn’t stop smiling. I think a few tears came down my cheeks as I ran up, up, up. This felt like home. This hill. These legs. The pounding in my chest.


After enjoying a moment at the memorial overlooking the city, I ran quickly down the hill trying to make up for the extra time it took me to get there. I stopped at the bottom to ask for directions when I realized I’d dropped my map. Several times I asked kind people for help and finally, about 2 miles from home, I decided I’d better call for help. I ducked into a café to use their wifi and SOS’d Samiya’s mom to have her come fetch me.

The rest of the day was spent at the spa with Samiya’s female family members. Massages, pedis, tea, and a sauna. For all of you who imagined me roughing it in Africa, I’m not.


Tonight, Samiya’s mom made me vegetable biryani and we laughed with her parents, brothers and their wives and all the aunties, uncles, and cousins that trickled through the house.

More Stories and photos to come!


Leaning Out

With my mileage increasing and my strength training remaining fairly consistent, I found myself frustrated last month that I seemed to be holding on to some extra fat.  I was by no means over weight but not at what I consider to be my healthiest, happiest weight/size.  As I continue to add mileage and recover from surgery, I don’t want any unnecessary weight wearing on my joints.  Also, I want to feel my sexiest.  No shame in that.

So for the past couple of weeks I have been making a very calculated effort to lean out in the healthiest way possible.  Here are some of the commitments I have made to myself Monday-Friday at 5 PM.  I relax a bit more on the weekends while still holding to most of my weight loss principals.

Melissa’s Lean Out Plan (It’s working):

  • Upon Rising– Drink a glass of  warm lemon water with a dash of cayenne pepper to stimulate my liver.
  • Follow with a vegan probiotic.
  • Next is a cup of green tea to rev up my ability to metabolize fat and provide me with a healthy dose of anti-oxidants.
  • Once I have had a cup of tea, I allow myself coffee.  Normally, when I’m cleansing, I do not. But I’m also trying to stay sane and I freaking love coffee.
  • Coffee is followed by home made green juice before my run
  • Post Run Protein and greens smoothie
  • My lunch and dinner are very similar to the norm.  There difference is
    • I’m not consuming any oil.  I’m getting my fat from whole food sources–either half an avo or a tablespoon of tahini on my salad/dinner.  I am doing water and coconut milk satees and finding that my food still taste delicious and is very satisfying–without the added fat calories.  I could see myself sticking to this no oil thing at home and allowing for it while we’re out.
    • Between lunch and dinner, I’m sticking to produce only.  I allow myself as much fruit and veg as I want but I’m not eating anything else during those hours.
    • No alcohol during the week.  I’m avoiding wine/alcohol during the week.  I was getting in the habit of having a glass every night and while I do not think this is a bad thing, it doesn’t help if you are trying to drop weight.  I do indulge in a glass Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening.
    •  No eating after 7 PM.  This is a hard one for me!  I’m not even typically hungry after dinner but often find myself eating more!  And it is usually something like chocolate. I’m trying to get in the habit of enjoying tea after dinner.

My workouts are getting stronger and I see my legs turning back into runners legs.  My last long run was 22 miles on trails at a quick 8:05/mile average.  Not going to lie–this hurt and it took a week, 2 massages and acupuncture to recover but it was fun to run with my neighbor and to see what I was capable of.  It got me thinking about running a Boston qualifier at some point in the future.  My VO2 Max workouts are getting faster as well.  I can do my repeats in 6:30-6:58 min/miles at a 6% incline and I’ve even added an extra 60 second repeat.

Strength training remains the biggest challenge for me.  It just isn’t as much fun and I can’t do it while pushing a stroller.  I’m finding times to sneak away and when I feel like quitting I think of the woman that told me in January to “rethink my goals” and “stick to half marathons”.  Want to motivate me?  Tell me I can’t do something.

What drives you?  What helps you stay on track with eating and training?

The Swamp Land of the Soul

Saturday, I was supposed to do a 21 mile training run.  It began with me trying to find some dry running clothes–its been a wet week and all my warm running clothes were WET.  Sigh, I slipped on some cropped running tights, layered up a few lightweight long sleeve tops and set off in the wet muckiness.  Within 2 miles, snow began to mix with the rain.  By mile 5, my hands HURT like CRAZY.

In 2004, I climbed Mt. Rainier with a group of people from my university.  We had to stop for longer than intended to switch up the rope teams as some people decided to turn back down to camp.  We sat there for a good 40 minutes and by the time we were ready to move out, I was sick to my stomach because my hands were so cold.   As I tackled the first hill at Point Defiance Park, I felt that same sick feeling coming over me.  I felt a lump growing in my throat–I was fighting back tears.  I thought, “Surely I am going to die!”  For the next 4 miles I went back and forth, “Come on, be tough and finish the 21 miles.” and then, “Melissa, you don’t have to prove anything!  16 is sufficient!”  and then, “You can work out inside this afternoon!” and then “What the hell is wrong with you!  16 miles! You don’t need to work out again this afternoon!” Sigh, and so it went over and over again.
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Core Running

Chi Running, like barefoot running, advocates that you run from your core.  This doesn’t mean you slide around on your belly like a penguin (haha, get it, “running from your core”?).  It means that the main muscles at work while you’re running (or walking) are the muscles that comprise your core.  Say what?  But what about my legs?  Once you learn to run from your core, your legs will just kind of come along for the ride.  This is something I still have to remind myself of on every run–usually about every 5 minutes.  When I start to get tired and distracted by my tiredness, I find myself doing this horrible little trot with my legs working way harder than they should be.  When I’m snapped back to my body, I realize I’ve let my core go loose and my legs are picking up the slack.  The moment I engage my core, I instantly feel some of the pressure come off my legs and I’m ready to rock.
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Walk Breaks Part II

So yesterday I wrote about how wonderful walk breaks are.  After I posted, I headed out for a run and I realized I had forgotten to explain just how to use this method.  Your run/walk ratio is going to depend on several factors—how long you’ve been running,  what distance you are running, weather conditions, and your overall feeling of wellness on any particular run.  Here are some guidelines that you can use to implement the run/walk method into your running routine.
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Watch Your Back, Girls.

I love running solo. It’s not that I don’t enjoy running with others, it’s just running alone energizes me like nothing else. Running creates a sanctuary for me – a time for me to reset my brain chemistry, pray, and reflect. Running alone is also when I have my best ideas. In grad school I’d be out running in the beautiful hills of Cape Town and before I knew it, I’d outlined an entire research paper. Sometimes, when I’m starting to doubt myself, all I need is a good run to get my confidence back.

My desire to run alone has often troubled people and left my family feeling a little nervous at times. Its not that I’m fearless or naïve—I know I’m not invincible and that bad things can happen anyone anywhere. In Cape Town I was constantly reminded of this. I met so many girls at my university who would say, “I would love to run but I just don’t feel safe here.” I wouldn’t have it. Cape Town was the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived with the most incredible hills and accessible trails. I was not about to let fear keep me from my long meditative runs.

This was one of my favorite hills to train on in Cape Town--sometimes shared it with the baboons. When the mist moved in the sun made the air sparkle and it was magical.

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